The Top 20 Best-Selling Titles… #17

17. More True Tales of Old-Time Kansas by David Dary

A continuation of his previous book, True Tales of Old-Time Kansas, David Dary delivers more stories, tales, and legends of Kansas’s history. Published in 1987, More True Tales of Old-Time Kansas tells entertaining stories from Kansas’s past, from adventures to natural disasters to tales of outlaws and legends. Dary is able to pull together accounts and facts with carefully skilled penmanship that makes history feel like a story.

Spread throughout the stories are illustrations to help propel the reader further into the exciting history of Kansas. More True Tales of Old-Time Kansas brings to life the excitement and adventure of the Old West: the revenge and vengeance of Bloody Bill Anderson and Dutch Henry, the exploits of bank and train robber Bill Doolen, and mayhem in the state’s most violent town. Colorful hermits and trappers, traders and town builders join historical characters such as William Becknell, father of the Santa Fe Trail—whose expedition turned a 2,000 percent profit—and Lizzie Johnson Williams, the first woman to follow the Western Trail.

“Dary is a popularizer, a skilled writer who takes historic facts and legends and weaves them together for the interested general reader. His easy, journalistic style, and determination to tell a good story introduce history to an audience that may not have discovered the fascinating heritage of our remarkable state.—Wichita Eagle-Beacon

20. The Philippine War, 1899-1902 by Brian McAllister Linn

19. The Sable Arm by Dudley Cornish

18. Haunted Kansas: Ghost Stories and Other Eerie Tales by Lisa Hefner Heitz

The Top 20 Best-Selling Titles… #18

#18. Haunted Kansas: Ghost Stories and Other Eerie Tales by Lisa Hefner Heitz

Published in 1997, Heitz’s spine-tingling collection of stories raps and taps and moans and groans through a wealth of descriptions of infamous Kansas phantoms, as well as disconcerting personal experiences related by former skeptics. Haunted Kansas pulls together a various collection of accounts chronicling Kansas folklore and eerie stories. Kansas’s deep history paves way for some complicated and unsettling accounts. Heitz tells the haunting stories of Kansas as she travels from location to location, uncovering the secrets that Kansas has had buried.

Set in various locations across the Sunflower State, the book aims to relay the haunting stories through Kansas’s history, while also giving a bit of knowledge of each location. Most locations are historical sites and important geological markers, adding more to the eerie quality these tales hold. From the haunted Teddy Bear in Fort Riley to the plethora of spirits walking alongside tombstones in the cemetery to the haunted town of Atchison, Heitz covers a lot of ground in telling the haunted tales of Kansas.

“Prior to the publication of the book, I spent a year researching Kansas legend and lore, traveling around the state to many communities, small and large, visiting museums and libraries for materials on local ghost stories, and interviewing residents,” Heitz explains. “During my travels throughout the state, I not only collected hundreds of stories, but I learned that my home state of Kansas is an endlessly varied, beautiful, and fascinating place. Oh, and spooky—very spooky!”

“My favorite part of writing the book,” Heitz explains, “was piecing together what I like to think of as an interwoven tapestry or quilt of folklore and legend. Each story was compelling and colorful on its own, but woven together into a book, the stories overlay a map of the state with a blanket of intersecting local legends and oral histories.”

Heitz says methods of researching the paranormal have developed in the twenty-five years since working on Haunted Kansas.

“Research in this field, as in all fields, has been radically changed by the internet in the years since the publication of my book,” Heitz says. “My method of research in the early and mid-1990s seems practically antiquated now; very ‘boots-on-the-ground’ and reliant on physical travel, hours spent in libraries and museums, and face-to-face interviews.”

Heitz continues, “I recently have been working on updating some of my research from that time and now, of course, much of the work can be done sitting in front of a computer. It is certainly easier and less time-consuming, and the resources online seem endless and are often invaluable. But there are fewer in-person encounters and interactions, and less physical travel to locations is required, which seems like something of a loss to me. My time spent researching around Kansas allowed me to meet many fascinating people and explore numerous locales, giving me a deep appreciation of Kansans and all things Kansas.”

Researching and writing a book about haunted places isn’t for the weak. Heitz says stories from the book still haunt her.

“From the stories collected in the book, and the numerous additional stories still haunting my files, my favorite tale is undeniably the one I grew up with, in my hometown of Topeka: the legend of the Albino Woman,” Heitz says. “This unusually complex, intergenerational, local legend—the ever-changing, always-morphing tale of a terrifying white-haired, white-robed wraith with glowing red eyes—has haunted the folkloric landscape of Topeka for seventy-five years or more. This shape-shifting figure has stepped out of stories and frightened multiple generations of Topekans, including my young self. And today, sometimes in the guise of one of her most recent iterations—the zombie cannibal known as the Blue Albino Woman—she is still scaring the bejeebers out of avid storytellers and their rapt listeners or readers. And that’s why I love her!”

Heitz continues, “The last paragraph of my story of the Albino Woman is still true more than twenty years later: ‘The Albino Woman legend is quite a bit like the infamous Lady herself: flying through the generations; constantly being re-created out of each individual teller and listener’s fears, sense of evil, and sense of mischief; and wandering the cultural landscape of Topeka as well as the physical landscape of cemetery, creek, woods, roads, and river that she calls home.’”

20. The Philippine War, 1899-1902 by Brian McAllister Linn

19. The Sable Arm by Dudley Cornish

The Top 20 Best-Selling Titles… #19

19. The Sable Arm by Dudley Cornish

Published in 1978 by Dudley Cornish, The Sable Arm dives into the history of Black Union soldiers fighting for freedom and liberty during the Civil War. Cornish traces the history of Black men as Union soldiers and how that affected both the fate of Black citizens and their role in the military today and the white Union soldiers who fought alongside them at that time. Told in chapters beginning with an appropriate quotation relating to the subject matter, The Sable Arm takes the reader through the challenges and results of allowing Black soldiers into the Union Army.

A bona fide classic, The Sable Arm was the first work to fully chronicle the remarkable story of the nearly 180,000 Black troops who served in the Union Army. Cornish details the hardships and conditions that these soldiers had to face to pave the way for Black troops today. Cornish traces similarities and outcomes in today’s military system that began with the admittance of these troops.

“One of the one hundred best books ever written on the Civil War.” —Civil War Times Illustrated

“The most valuable book ever written on the topic.” — Herman Hattaway, coauthor of How the North Won

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20. The Philippine War, 1899-1902 by Brian McAllister Linn

 

The Top 20 Best-Selling Titles… #20

UPK is thrilled to be celebrating our seventy-fifth anniversary, and we’d like to invite our supporters to celebrate along with us. Since our founding in 1946, we’ve published nearly 1,000 books. To celebrate seventy-five years of publishing excellence, we’re counting down our Top 20 best-selling titles. Stay tuned as we make our way to our top seller…

20. The Philippine War, 1899-1902 by Brian McAllister Linn

Brian McAllister Linn provides a definitive treatment of military operations in the Philippines. From the pitched battles of the early war to the final campaigns against guerrillas, Linn traces the entire course of the conflict. More than an overview of Filipino resistance and US pacification, this is a detailed study of the fighting in the “boondocks.”

In addition to presenting a detailed military history of the war, Linn challenges previous interpretations. Rather than being a clash of armies or societies, the war was a series of regional struggles that differed greatly from island to island. By shifting away from the narrow focus on one or two provinces to encompass the entire archipelago, Linn offers a more thorough understanding of the entire war.

Winner: Society for Military History Distinguished Book Award

“A thoughtful, deeply researched, and well-written work about a war that teaches much about the nature of revolutionary warfare—even today.” —Foreign Affairs

“The definitive study of this often-misunderstood war.” —Parameters

When Democrats and Republicans United to Repair the Earth

David Sarasohn, co-author of The Green Years, 1964-1976: When Democrats and Republicans United to Repair the Earth

Republican Howard Baker of Tennessee was the majority and minority leader of the US Senate, White House chief of staff, and a presidential contender. But what he really hoped to be remembered for, as he said at the end of his career, was his work on the Clean Air Act—not trying to destroy it, but establishing it.

Half a century ago, over the course of a dozen years, the United States adopted the environmental laws and procedures that we still follow today: more than 300 efforts, including the Clean Air Acts, the Clean Water Acts, the Endangered Species Act, the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and dozens of national parks, national forests, wilderness areas, and protected seashores were implemented. These advances, unimaginable in today’s poisonous partisan gridlock, were propelled by Democrats and Republicans working together and typically drew overwhelming support.

The story of that time, covered in The Green Years, 1964–1976: When Democrats and Republicans United to Repair the Earth, carries some surprising revelations and some surprising people. Republicans were key in these efforts to a striking degree, reminding us that the 1960s and 1970s Republicans were as close to the outdoor activism of Teddy Roosevelt as to the drill-everywhere attitude of Donald Trump. Baker, a national Republican leader, spent a decade working closely on environmental legislation with Democratic presidential hopeful Edmund Muskie. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Pennsylvania Republican representative John Saylor was one of the most active and determined conservation advocates in the House.

Democratic legacies from the Green Years look different as well. Washington senator Henry Jackson and Idaho senator Frank Church are etched in history on their opposing sides of the Vietnam war: the high-profile hawk and the resolute dove. But throughout this period, the two were close allies on the Senate Interior Committee, repeatedly producing major legislation on pollution and preservation and protecting massive stretches of the country from development; enacting rules that still govern how we deal with the land, water, and air around us.

The historical reputations of the era’s looming high-profile presidents, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, have not exactly been shaped by environmental issues. Yet both of their administrations left towering legacies on land and water, achievements unthought of before and unimaginable since.

Nobody remembers Lyndon Johnson for environmental achievements. Yet the original “Great Society” speech at the University of Michigan in 1964 had an entire section on the subject, and Interior Secretary Stewart Udall led the fight for a series of achievements, beginning with the long-sought Wilderness Act of 1964. At the end of his administration, battered and discredited by Vietnam and racial violence, Johnson was still urging Congress and signing measures to create and expand national parks and forests. When the Bureau of the Budget tried to resist spending for protecting more territory, Johnson’s aide Joseph Califano commented, “Budget’s trouble is that it consistently underestimates how much this man loves the land.”

The legislative achievements during the Nixon administration, under a president famous for walking the beach in wingtips, were even greater and include the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the creation of the EPA and environmental impact reports. Some were administration initiatives, some were enacted over administration resistance, but the achievements were driven by figures whose role is now forgotten. Nixon’s domestic counselor John Ehrlichman, today known only as a convicted Watergate conspirator, had been a land use lawyer in Seattle, and his environmental leanings colored White House policy. The Sierra Club’s David Brower later concluded that the movement would have done better to court Nixon rather than battle him. Long after being driven from office, Nixon told George H. W. Bush’s EPA director, “I founded EPA. I’m an environmentalist, too.”

Beyond the simple list of what was passed is how it was all passed. Legislation was hard-fought, extensively debated, and often took several Congresses to enact. But typically, the final measures passed both houses overwhelmingly and were supported by all parties: by segregationist Southern Democrats, hardline Midwestern conservatives, and urban liberals. The Endangered Species Act of 1973, which could not possibly get through Congress today, passed the Senate unanimously and the House 354-4.

Such harmony is hard to envision today, of course, because of the bitter attitudes pervading Washington. But there has also been a change in the makeup of Congress, which, in turn, results in both changed environmental policies and environmental landscapes. Everyone knows Lyndon Johnson’s accurate prediction that the civil rights struggle would cost the Democrats the South for decades, but environmental legislation also blasted the party in the inland West. The disappearance of those Democrats and the ones from the South, along with Republicans from the Northeast, widened the gap between the parties and removed figures vital to bipartisan environmental efforts.

But the advances of the Green Years were not just a matter of Congress, or of executive orders from the White House. The story of the Wilderness Act didn’t begin in the 88th Congress, or even in the previous sessions when it fell short. It goes back to Abraham Lincoln setting aside the Yosemite Valley, and to Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland, and Theodore Roosevelt beginning the protection of vast stretches of undeveloped land, and to decades of lobbying and organizing work by the Wilderness Society. The drive to protect animals and plants didn’t start with the Endangered Species Act, but goes back to colonial Massachusetts. The Green Years, 1964–1976 traces those roots. The book measures that mandating community input, thought to be a curb on protection, actually stimulated citizen activism. Congress ultimately, and eventually, reflects its constituencies. The rising pressures of global warming and mounting weather disasters and extinction events could yet make themselves felt in Congress. In politics, as on the calendar, a green season can come again.

David Sarasohn is a retired editor and columnist at the Oregonian and the author of The Party of Reform: Democrats in the Progressive Era

Farina King on Indigenous People’s Day, 2021

Dr. Farina King, author of The Earth Memory Compass

This Indigenous People’s Day, I think of Indigenous childhoods through generations, honoring the children who survived and those who we must always remember. Remembering is an action.

Shí éí Bilagáanaa nishłí̹ dóó Kinyaa’áanii báshíshchíín. Bilagáanaa dashicheii dóó Tsinaajinii dashinálí. I just introduced myself by my clans, acknowledging my ancestors and kin as a woman of white English-American settler descent born for the Towering House and Black-Streaked Woods People of the Diné. I am a citizen of the Navajo Nation and the daughter of a boarding school survivor. I grew up with the stories of Indian boarding schools from my father and paternal relatives. Their stories have drawn me to understand Diné and diverse Indigenous experiences in boarding schools over generations.

I exist, because my father survived boarding school, and his mother before him survived boarding school, and her father before her survived boarding school, and his parents before him survived the Long Walk—the forced removal and concentration of Diné at Hwééłdi, “Land of the Suffering.” Because of my ancestors, my children and I have the opportunity to thrive as Diné. These thoughts really hit me recently, as I ponder how the US government is finally launching a Federal Indian Boarding School Truth Initiative through the leadership of Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo).

In my first book, The Earth Memory Compass (University Press of Kansas 2018), I share the story of how my father ran away from the Ramah Indian Boarding School. I woke up recently crying, rethinking my father’s story of running away because it dawned on me that my father almost did not survive boarding school. He almost froze to death when he ran away with another boy in the winter. I asked him if I could share this story again, and he consented to it. He told me how bullies at the school led him to run away, and he asked friends if they wanted to run away with him. Another boy decided to come with him because he also wanted to go home. On their way they got caught in a canyon during a snow drift that almost killed them. But they were fortunately found by a rancher who saved their lives. I thought of all the stories of boarding school runaways and how some children died that same way that my father almost did—freezing to death in their attempt to return home. When I asked him why he ran away, he told me that he “did not run away from the education.”

Think of all the daughters, sons, brothers, and sisters who are family and never returned home or passed away soon after getting home. Think of their posterity that could have been. My father should have never had to face such struggles and hardships. This history lives on in him, me, and my children. Diné and many Native American and Indigenous peoples continue to fight every day for basic human rights such as access to clean water, shelter, food, healthcare, and schooling for and by their own people. The Navajo Nation is still fighting to reclaim Diné education.

My father may have survived the boarding school, but he suffered many injuries—and not just physical ones. He will never say these things because he does not live his life as a victim. He is an active agent who has persevered much but has also lived in joy and peace. Yet my father never taught me and my siblings Diné bizaad, so I fear that the seed of the Navajo language that he has carried may not survive. There is much that we still must do to pursue healing. And it is important to recognize that healing is not a checkbox to be marked off. Healing is a cyclical, ongoing journey through generations and time.

Indigenous kinship, community networks, and protocols are essential to understanding Indian boarding schools and to the ongoing journeys of healing and reconciliation. There are many different tribal nations and Indigenous communities, including some that are intertribal in urban settings. Every specific context and Indigenous community and kinship networks must be connected hand-in-hand with these initiatives to address the effects of Indian boarding schools. The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition and so many others have been paving the way for this truth, healing, and reconciliation. My friends Marsha Small and Preston McBride have been working on finding and accounting for the lost boarding schoolchildren, including those in unmarked mass graves, who did not survive Indian boarding schools. We are collaborating on providing guides to Indigenous protocols based on our experiences and work.

We need to support one another in these efforts to acknowledge and learn of the truths, perspectives, and experiences of Indian boarding schools; to stop the boarding school legacy of genocidal practices and approaches that seek to eradicate Indigeneity; and to embrace and support Indigenous sovereignties, ways of knowing, and education. Value Indigenous stories, histories, and lives. Actions reveal these values. We can return the lost boarding schoolchildren home by finding them, learning about them, and supporting and connecting with their families and Indigenous communities that include boarding school survivors.

My forthcoming book that I am coauthoring with Mike Taylor and James Swensen is tentatively called Returning Home because of such interconnections of healing and reconciling Indian boarding school pasts with Indigenous communities today and their futures. Please continue the languages that the children were punished for speaking; be sure the sick, hungry, and homeless of Indigenous communities can receive care and support; teach all about Indigenous histories from Indigenous perspectives and voices; and listen to Indigenous communities, following their directions and guidance toward healing. These are only some beginning steps, but we all need to begin somewhere step by step. Boarding school history matters because Native American families have paid far too great a price to educate their children, and they continue to pay that price to this day.

Dr. Farina King is assistant professor of history and affiliate of the Cherokee and Indigenous Studies Department at Northeastern State University, Tahlequah, Oklahoma.